Dad, Are You There?

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“Dad, Are You There?” Ensign, June 1996, 53

“Dad, Are You There?”

Like many young women, I was very involved in baby-sitting. I loved to care for children, and my baby-sitting business in our small town was growing quickly.

One day I received a phone call from a young couple who had been given my name along with a high recommendation from a mutual friend. Despite their confidence in my abilities to care for their children, I felt uneasy about accepting their request. All I knew about them was that they led a lifestyle very foreign to a teenage girl raised among Latter-day Saints.

Finally the scheduled night arrived, and I bravely climbed into the back seat of their beat-up old car. The car started with a jerk, and as we began our drive toward the roughest part of town, I watched in horror as the man and his wife passed a container of alcohol back and forth to each other. Their laughter was frightful.

The car came to a stop in front of an old, ill-kempt house. As I entered, several seconds passed before my eyes adjusted to the dim light. My nose wrinkled at the scent of stale cigarettes, alcohol, and old diapers. Finally I noticed two diapered children huddled in a corner. Their forlorn appearance overpowered my negative impressions, and my heart went out to them. I felt a deep desire to care for the children, to love them, and to somehow bless their lives, if only for a few hours.

While I cared for them, all my fears left me, and the night went well until the children were asleep in bed. Then the silence was broken only by strange creaks of the unfamiliar house. I was too frightened to sleep, and as the hours wore on, I became aware of the yells and screams coming from fighting neighbors. I was falling apart, but I felt helpless.

Then the thought came to my mind that my father, who was a fireman, might still be awake and that I could call him on his private line at the station. Within seconds my father was on the phone speaking to me with a comforting voice. He suggested that I lie down on the couch and try to rest. I fought his counsel, telling him over and over again that I was too afraid to ever rest in that environment.

My father calmed my fears with a promise that he would stay on the line and not hang up. I did lie down and rest. However, I awoke with a bolt of fear several times during the following two hours, each time calling, “Dad, are you there?” And every time my father was there, still holding on the line, never leaving me alone.

As an adult, I continue to find that life can be scary and uncertain. Although my father has passed from this life, the lesson in faith and trust he taught me on that night years ago still comforts me. Now, when I need comfort and reassurance, I pray to my Heavenly Father, “Father, are you there?” And I am comforted, knowing that he loves me and is still on the line, aware of my situation and “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).